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Aqueduct News Roundup: The Importance of Water Data, and the Hidden Prices of Water Management

The stories in this month’s Aqueduct News Roundup are focused on two central themes. The first theme is the importance of data in water management: February saw the introduction of compelling new data sets, as well as water users in the private and public sectors coming to grips with the importance (and difficulty) of acquiring good water data. The second theme is cost: several stories emerged in February that demonstrated the sometimes staggering price tags associated with water for governments and companies alike.

Shale Gas: Time to Look Before We Leap Any Further

Shale gas is a game-changer for global energy supply. It is already transforming the U.S. energy outlook, and is expected to deliver over 40% of domestic gas production by 2025 (Figure 1). Other countries and regions, notably Europe and China, may soon follow suit, in a repeat of the early 20th century oil rush.

Opinion is bitterly divided, however, over the environmental risks and benefits of this abundant new source of energy – so much so, that the different sides struggle to agree even on basic facts. The debate is raging over two key issues – on-the-ground impacts to water, air, communities, land use, wildlife, and habitats; and the broader energy and global warming implications of developing shale gas.

EPA Mercury Rules: Keeping the Lights on While Removing Toxics from Our Air

Next week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to finalize new rules to reduce mercury and other toxic air emissions that will affect dozens of antiquated power plants currently operating without pollution controls.

These rules have stirred debate in some circles as to whether retrofitting or retiring outdated plants will cause shortfalls in electricity capacity. How will new EPA mercury rules influence the electricity system? This post updates earlier assessments by taking a close look at recent studies on the reliability of the electricity grid to answer that question.

Aqueduct and the Water-Food-Energy Nexus

This piece was coauthored by: Joe Rozza, P.E., BCEE, Global Water Resource Sustainability Manager, The Coca-Cola Company; Greg Koch, Managing Director, Global Water Stewardship, The Coca-Cola Company; Jonathan Boright, Research Scientist, ISciences LLC; Nicole Grohoski, Research Analyst, ISciences LLC

The Aqueduct project is an effort to measure and map water related risks being developed by the World Resources Institute with the support of an alliance founded by General Electric and Goldman Sachs. As part of this effort, the Aqueduct team convened its hydrological modeling partner ISciences and experts from The Coca-Cola Company to develop and analyze a set of maps for the Bonn2011 Nexus conference that illustrate the complex relationships between water, food, and energy worldwide (see below).

Why focus on the water-food-energy nexus? Like water, food and energy are basic necessities of life that help support robust economies and stable political systems. Agriculture and power generation, moreover, account for the majority of water withdrawals in most developed countries.

Aqueduct Partnership to Map Water Risks in Africa's Orange-Senqu Basin

Snaking across multiple international boundaries and supporting everything from villages and farms to industry and cities, the Orange-Senqu River is one of the most important natural resources in southern Africa. The complexity and significance of the Orange-Senqu basin made it a clear focus for the Aqueduct project, which aims to measure and map physical, reputational, and regulatory water risks in economically important river basins around the world.

With a prototype map for the Yellow River basin in China and global water stress maps completed, the World Resources Institute (WRI) is in the process of expanding its basin-level mapping into other basins around the world, including the Orange-Senqu.

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